What is consignment? Definition, Strategies & Advantages

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In the retail world, the consignment model has gained notable popularity. This model aligns with the growing demand for sustainable and affordable shopping options. Consignment is changing how we think about retail, from stylish fashion stores to your local thrift shops. It is a crucial strategy for anyone looking to make it in today’s market. This guide will detail the consignment model, outlining its benefits, drawbacks, and how it can propel your business forward. You’ll learn how it can help your business succeed and what challenges you might face.

What is consignment?

Consignment is a method of commerce where a reseller, known as the consignee, pays the supplier (consignor) once their product is sold. In this, the supplier provides the reseller with products without exchanging money. The reseller then puts the products up for sale in their store. The supplier maintains the ownership of the products until they’re sold. Once the products are sold, the reseller pays the supplier for what was sold and returns anything that wasn’t sold.

Who uses consignment and why?

Consignment can be used by any business that displays products in a physical store but is mostly used by businesses that focus on selling a specific type of product. For the long-term success of a consignment business model, initiating a strong supplier-reseller relationship is crucial. The most common types of products that are sold through consignment include fashionable clothing and shoes that change every season, antique items, handicrafts, and perishable items.

Pawn shops vs. Consignment stores

Pawn shops and consignment stores both sell used items but in different ways. At a pawn shop, you can get instant cash for your items. The shop holds these items as collateral for the money they give you. The shop can sell your item if you don’t repay the loan. On the other hand, consignment stores sell items for the original owners, who keep ownership until the items sell. This fundamental difference affects how cash flows through a business and how a store manages its risks. Consignment might be better for those who want lower financial risk and a more lasting business model.

Steps to start a consignment business

Starting a consignment business requires a clear plan and careful preparation. Follow these steps to set yourself on the right path:

1. Research your market and choose your niche: Begin by understanding the local demand for consignment and investigating existing competitors to determine which types of products are most popular. Decide whether your consignment business will specialize in clothing, furniture, electronics, or another area. Selecting a specific niche will help you target your audience more effectively.

2. Find reliable suppliers: To have a steady supply of goods, build relationships with dependable suppliers. Look for those who can provide quality items and are interested in consignment arrangements.

3. Utilize sales agents: Incorporate sales agents who can effectively connect suppliers with retailers. Their tasks include promoting products to boost customer interest and managing sales to ensure smooth transactions.

4. Develop a consignment agreement: A well-crafted consignment agreement is vital to a smooth business relationship. It should outline the roles of the consignor (who owns the goods) and the consignee (who sells them), including the agreement duration and the fact that ownership remains with the consignor until sale. The agreement should also address payment schedules, commission rates, how unsold items will be handled, and how either party can terminate the agreement. Consulting a legal professional ensures the agreement is thorough and protects both sides.

5. Set up an inventory management system: Implement a system to track your inventory and sales. This step is crucial to keep things organized and avoid overstocking or shortages.

6. Secure a location: Find a location for your consignment business. Choose a space that suits your needs and budget, whether it’s a brick-and-mortar store or an online platform.

7. Market your business: Promote your consignment business to attract customers. Use social media, local advertising, and partnerships with other companies to increase visibility.

These key steps will give you a solid foundation for your consignment business. This structured approach helps you cover all the critical aspects needed for a successful start, with a robust consignment agreement at its core to ensure clarity and prevent misunderstandings.

Advantages of the consignment model

Consignment offers benefits to suppliers and resellers. It reduces risk and allows shared rewards, leading to better finances, easier inventory control, and more sales opportunities.

Lower risk and more financial freedom

Consignment lowers risk for resellers; they only pay for products once they are sold. This helps with cash flow and prevents losses from unsold items. Suppliers benefit because they don’t need to store unsold goods; they can focus on making new products.

This setup is helpful in markets like home decor and furniture, where startup costs are high, and inventory can be bulky and expensive.

Better inventory management

Effective inventory management is essential for suppliers and resellers. The consignment model prevents overstocking. This keeps inventory levels where they need to be to meet customer demands. Retailers can update their stock regularly without upfront costs, quickly adapting to new market trends.

Modern consignment software also improves this process. It automates sales tracking and cuts down on manual work. Additionally, this software supports the environment by making it easier to sell pre-owned and gently used items, extending their life and reducing waste.

Expanded sales opportunities and market reach

Consignment provides new opportunities for sales. Retailers can offer high-end items like luxury furniture and decor. Customers like to see and touch these items before buying them. Meeting customers in person can build trust and loyalty. Also, consignment allows retailers to reach customers worldwide through online platforms. This broader reach, saving costs, and lowering risks make consignment an attractive option for businesses wanting to expand their brand and reach more customers.

Common challenges

Relying on suppliers: Stores depend on suppliers for stock. If suppliers run late or flake out, stores might not have enough to sell.

Sharing profits: In consignment, the money from sales is split. This sharing can affect how much profit stores make.

Tracking items: It can be tricky to manage consigned items. Stores must sell things before the consignment period ends and keep track of what’s selling.

Even with these challenges, proper planning and tools can turn potential issues into opportunities for growth.


Strong relationships: Good relationships with suppliers help avoid delays and keep stock flowing.

Clear contracts: Well-defined contracts can prevent misunderstandings and make the partnership work better for everyone.

Using consignment software: Using specific software that can simplify tracking items and managing inventory.

In conclusion, the consignment model is a smart and low-risk way to run a business. It matches today’s need for affordable and sustainable shopping. This method helps businesses manage their money better and easily track inventory. It also lets them reach more customers without enormous upfront costs. Whether you sell trendy or designer clothing, pre-owned items or antiques, or home decor, consignment can be effective. Build strong relationships with suppliers, make clear agreements, and use suitable consignment software to succeed. These steps can help your business grow in today’s competitive retail market.

Have a question to ask? Mail it to support@zohoinventory.com, and we’ll get back to you.

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  1. Tanya

    Does your inventory platform allow for consignment sales and tracking of payments?

    • Mira Natarajan

      Hi Tanya. Thank you for reaching out to us! Zoho Inventory does allow consignment sales to a certain extent. Please contact us at support@zoho-inventory.com and we’ll be happy to explain how it works.

  2. Vincent

    The site in so encouraging

  3. Manoj Kumar

    Thank you, nice information

  4. Joshua Harmless

    This very interesting I love the explanation


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